Challenges ahead for Valley Stream schools
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It’s the double-digit increases in the health insurance premiums and contributions to the state retirement system that are not. In District 24, the smallest of the four, pension costs are expected to rise more than $700,000 next year.
Fale said that as the stock market improves, the increases should eventually level off, but that could still be a few years down the road. New York state guarantees pensions, so the system must be fully funded. When investments are down, contributing agencies, like school districts and municipalities, are called on to make up the difference.
District 30 officials see the end of the county guarantee as the biggest threat. For decades, Nassau County has paid the refunds for any successful assessment challenges in full, including money that was initially paid to the schools. The county is ending that practice, though the matter is currently tied up in litigation.
If the decision goes in the county’s favor, school districts will be on the hook for the refunds. In commercial-property-heavy District 30, that could mean a lot of money. Based on the past few years, the district could be paying back more than $1 million a year, Rutkoske said.
District officials say they plan to set up a separate reserve fund to pay tax refunds, but can’t do so until the matter is settled in court. “That has basically tied our hands in terms of preparing the way we’d like to prepare,” said Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Stirling.
He said that the goal for the coming budget season would be to continue to provide students with a well-rounded education. District 30’s mission, Stirling explained, is to give students opportunities that are well above the minimum required by the state. The district must offer top-notch programs supported by modern technology so students are prepared for the world they will enter after school, he said.
Iadevaio said that the recent focus on improving security in the schools will present another challenge in preparing next year’s budget. Any security enhancements, he explained, carry a cost, but the boards have an obligation to provide students and staff with a safe environment.